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The wedding dress

November 12, 2011
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

In August of 1944, Major Claude Hensinger was returning from a B-52 bombing raid over Yowata, Japan during World War II when disaster struck. The plane's engine caught fire, and it began plummeting towards the ground.

Hensinger had a white parachute available for just such an emergency. He inflated the chute as he jumped from the plane, suffering only minor injuries as he hit the rocks below. That night he used the parachute for warmth as he slept beneath it to stay warm. He and the rest of his crew were stranded in enemy territory, with no way to escape.

The next day, Hensinger and his crew were discovered by a group of Chinese allies. The soldiers made it out of Yowata safely. Hensinger clung to that life saving parachute as a keepsake.

Three years later, Hensinger decided to propose to his sweetheart, Ruth. He presented the parachute to her and suggested that she turn it into a wedding dress. Ruth decided to create a "Gone with the Wind" style of dress. He hired a seamstress to make the bodice and veil. She completed the skirt by herself, and looked stunning as she walked down the aisle on July 19, 1947.

The parachute? Its life wasn't over yet. Decades later their daughter, and also their sons bride, were so amazed by their parents story that both brides wore the parachute gown in their own weddings as well.

The dress was finally retired from "active duty" and now resides in storage at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.



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